After a big win The Eagles travel to Vicarage Road to last place Watford.
Given the circumstances included in Palace’s midweek match coming away with a hard fought 1-0 victory is a result that many fans will be happy with. Palace looked to be in dire straits when centre-back Mamadou Sakho was sent off with a straight red card part way through the first half, but were held back Bournemouth and were able to steal the three points with their first shot on goal of the match. This win sees Palace sitting in a strong seventh place position as they look to extend their winning streak to three games.
To say Watford have struggled this season would be an understatement. The Hornets sit at the bottom of the table with only one win all season and by far the worst attack in the league with nine goals scored in fifteen matches played. The issues have extended far beyond the on pitch performance as the club recently fired their second manager this season leaving caretaker manager Hayden Mullins as the third man to lead the team since August.
The defensive crisis at Palace only got worse in midweek as Mamadou Sakho earned a three game suspension for his rash challenge and Patrick van Aanholt was forced off early in the match with a hamstring injury. This will likely result in a back four of Jeffery Schlupp, Martin Kelly, James Tomkins, and Cheikhou Kouyaté filling in at centre-back. Kouyaté would return to his usual midfield spot if either Gary Cahill or Scott Dann is deemed fit enough to play ahead of the match. If the Senegalese midfielder is forced to play at centre-back expect James McCarthy to step into the starting line-up in his place.
Despite the dreadful performance of the Watford team this season there are still talented players in the squad, particularly in the midfield and attacking areas. In midfield Frenchman Abdoulaye Doucoure provides a creative influence while attackers Gerard Deulofeu and Andre Gray are more than capable of moments of magic against what will be a unorthodox Palace back line. Long time thorn in the side of Palace Troy Deeney has not featured much this season due to injury but made his return to the starting eleven against Leicester City and certainly fancies himself a goal against The Eagles.
This match will likely be won or lost in the Palace defensive third. The Watford attack has been toothless all season but could find opportunities against a Palace back line that will be missing at least its first choice outside-backs and facing a crisis in the heart of defence. The make-shift back line held resolutely, despite being outnumbered, in midweek and Roy Hodgson is likely confident in his system keeping the hosts out of the net, regardless of the players operating it. Palace also have the attacking talent to cause big trouble both on the counter and in sustained pressure against a Watford defence that lacks quality and still relies on former Eagle Adrian Mariappa consistently.
Keep an eye on fast attacking threats Wilfried Zaha, who has been getting closer to his best form, Jeffery Schlupp and Andros Townsend as they could all cause issues for Watford’s full-backs. Realistically this is a game that Palace should win fairly comfortably as they appear to be headed in the opposite direction of a Watford team which faces an uphill climb to get out of relegation zone. Another win in this match could propel The Eagles up to fifth place in the table and sustain their strong form going into the holiday period.